Rye Sense of Humor: High West Double Rye!

High West Double Rye!

High West Distillery’s Double Rye!

On the docket: High West Distillery’s Double Rye! (46% a.b.v.), a blend of a 2 year old and 16 year old rye.

Poured into: Manhattan cocktail glass

S:  Honey-apricot with just the barest hint of haze plus a fleck or two of particulate.  A note, this is not chill filtered.  The aforementioned process is used to produce a more brilliant color, but robs the spirit of congeners, compounds that help impart favorable flavor.

Let me say something about the bottle:  The bottle has microscopic air bubbles trapped inside, its surface.  It’s dimpled; giving it a rustic, rugged look.  The logo of the distillery in addition to some of the lettering is textured on the glass.  Nice presentation.

A:  The description on the back of the label is quite surprising, citing evergreen, gin, clove, anise, and eucalyptus buttons to name a few flavors.  I certainly a get green, floral element in the aroma, in addition to a sweet corn bourbon-esque note.  Also present in a spicy, earthy component that no rye should be without.

T:  Mirroring much of the aroma, I detect young, green nearly minty flavors.  They subside and the more mature, corn-heavier 16 year old sweetness helps to smooth out the spice.  The finish is slow and pretty long, the heat taking its time to build on its way down the throat.  The clove and anise are most noticeable on the lips and the tongue long after you take a sip.

F:  Full, coating.  Sip this slowly, and it might be a great, natural cough remedy.

O:  Do I like it?  Certainly.  Had this been just the young, brash 2 year without its partner, the 16, I’d deem it undrinkable.  However, High West was wise to blend this spirit in this fashion.  It’s flavorful, it’s affordable, and a thoughtful example of what a blended straight rye whiskey can offer.

Suggested pairings:  Spice cake, my ideal sandwich from my previous post, sweet vermouth in the form of a Manhattan


Rye Are You Looking at Me Funny?


In having to choose between the many varieties of distilled grain alcohols, rye is my favorite by far.  I suppose it stems from my love of intense and savory flavors.  While most kids were high on PB&J on Wonderbread, I wanted my roast beef on caraway-studded rye bread with a thin coat of spicy brown mustard and a side of garlic dill pickle (hungry yet?).  I still love that meal.  When I started drinking adult beverages, and learned that rye is an option, I embarked on a journey.  Though bourbon is nice (though for me too sweet), and Single-malt Scotch quite divine (though for me usually too expensive to buy a bottle that’s old enough to vote), rye offers me the quality, flavor, and affordability I look for in a finely crafted spirit.  Just like scotch and bourbon, rye comes in many varieties.  The key, if you like the spicy, earthy, and more savory qualities of the spirit, is to find bottles with a higher rye content.  This might take a little research, but each brand usually provides ratios on their website.

Distillers can blend rye with corn, barley, or even wheat, each other ingredient adding something to the mix.  Also like scotch, separate batches are often blended together.  In the case of High West’s Double Rye!, a 2 year old with a 95% rye/5% barley melds with a 16 year old 53% rye/37% corn blend.  The young rye provides the spice and bite, the older provides sweetness and smoothness that tames some of the bite.

My favorite spirit also goes into my favorite cocktail, the Manhattan.  Two parts rye to one part sweet vermouth gets added to a dash of bitters and finished with a maraschino cherry.  Splitting the vermouth into equal parts sweet and dry results is what the bar industry calls a “perfect” Manhattan.  In a world that seems to favor the bigger, the better, and the new, this classic cocktail agrees with my sensibilities and palate.  If it was good enough for my 93 year old grandmother, who had one every day at 5pm, it’s good enough for me now!  She’s since moved on to the great Bar in the sky, sharing a table with my grandfather and his beer, but I still honor her memory with every Manhattan I consume.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s edition, and my first rye review.


Wake this Giant: B. Nektar’s Sleeping Giant Mead

Since it’s not a Sunday, I have a non-beer review with which to enlighten you.  At the urging of various individuals, I finally decided to try beer’s buzzing cousin, mead.  I’m not familiar on how to evaluate it, so I looked up some guidelines.  While I didn’t do a very scientific review, I did try to detect any glaring flaws, in addition to elaborating on the experience to give others a sense of what all the buzz is about.

On the docket:  375 mL bottle of B. Nektar’s Sleeping Giant (Limited Release)

Poured into:  Odd Otter stemmed tasting glass

S:  This giant pours a pale gold, with crystal clarity.  Reminiscent of a mature chardonnay.  No bubbles are present.  During the course of drinking this, legs appeared on my glass, providing evidence of the alcohol and sugar content.

A:  A light floral note cedes to a spicy, woody aroma.  The rye whiskey barrel finish is quite evident.  A honey sweetness emerges as the mead warms up, too.  Higher alcohols present themselves, but in a pleasant way.  This mead clocks in at 15.1, also known as sack-strength.

T:  Sweet honey, a mingling of peaches and apples, maybe even pears.  When warmer, herbal, medicinal flavors show up.  Though I’ve not had many, the impression suggests a sweet Riesling- as odd as the comparison might be.  The combined elements of the abv and the barrel aging create a piquant, drying, woody quality.  I’ll be so bold as to say the end has “Manhattan” qualities to it, a favorite rye-based drink of mine.  Crazier- it seems like this guy has the vermouth and the bitters in it, too!  Or, that could be the power of suggestion.

F:  Full-bodied, sweet, rich.  It dries out on the finish, a small tannin-like sharpness from the barrel aging.  As they say in the whiskey world, this one has a medium finish.

O:  Though not experienced with mead, I truly enjoyed this offering, and feel fortunate enough to get my hands on a bottle.  I’m not usually a fan of barrel-aged beer, but enjoy rye whiskey.  One sip allayed my fear.

S:  4  A:  3.75  T:  4.5  F:  4  O:  4

Suggested food pairing:  I’ve heard it’s hard to wrong with food pairing regarding mead.  My picks?  Earthy or nutty English cheese, fruit with a caramel dipping sauce, spiced nuts